Products suited to this guided test*
  • Back-pinning Probe Set

  • PicoScope Battery Clip

  • Flexible Back-pinning Probe

  • Large Dolphin/Gator Clips

  • Premium Test Lead: BNC to 4 mm, 3 m

  • Premium Test Leads: Set of four leads 3 m (TA125 - TA128)

  • *At Pico we are always looking to improve our products. The tools used in this guided test may have been superseded and the products above are our latest versions used to diagnose the fault documented in this case study.

Ignition amplifier - trigger - GM (Ecotec)

The purpose of this test is to confirm the integrity of the ignition trigger signals sent from the ECOTEC 1.6 Lt. Multec PCM based on the switching voltage and duty present at the ignition amplifier during engine run conditions.

How to perform the test

View connection guidance notes.

  1. Use manufacturer data to identify the functions of the amplifier circuits.
  2. Connect PicoScope channel A and PicoScope channel B to the two signal circuits.
  3. Start the engine and allow it to idle.
  4. Minimise the help page and with the example waveform on your screen PicoScope has already selected suitable scales for you to capture a waveform.
  5. Start the scope to see live data.
  6. With your live waveforms on screen stop the scope.
  7. Use the Waveform Buffer, Zoom and Measuring tools to examine your waveform.

Example waveform

Waveform notes

The double ended coil differs from many other systems as it has the ignition amplifier built into the coil pack. The coil/amplifier pack will have 4 electrical connections. The pack receives a 12 volt supply from the ignition switch, has an independent earth return and the remaining two connections are in the form of a 5 volt 'squarewave' digital signal from the Electronic Control Module (ECM).

The ECM will receive information from the engine's sensors and calculates the point of ignition by the ECM from its internal pre-set parameter. At the designated point, the 5 volt supply drops to zero volts, signalling the amplifier to remove the earth path on the coil primary, firing the coil.

The coil/amplifier pack has two separate sides (one for cylinders 1 + 4 and the other for cylinders 2 + 3). Using an oscilloscope with dual trace both circuits can be monitored and it can be seen that the coils are fired alternately, as the example shows.

Further guidance

This particular system that is fitted to the 1.6 litre GM/Vauxhall/Opel ECOTEC engine has the ignition amplifier as an integral part of the coil pack.

This particular configuration is a hindrance to those of us who perform diagnostic tuning, as the system does not allow for any connections to the low tension circuit. When the two outer electrical connections are monitored with an oscilloscope a digital square wave is seen and not the expected primary parade picture. The integral coil pack with the built in amplifier will have a voltage supply on the centre terminal at 12 volts with two 5 volt square wave signals to switch the pair of coils.

If the coil's switching is faulty due to a lazy power transistor and the 'normal' induced voltage is reduced, this would, in normal circumstances, be easily seen but with this combination the only clue would be in a reduced spark duration and coil output.


This help topic is subject to changes without notification. The information within is carefully checked and considered to be correct. This information is an example of our investigations and findings and is not a definitive procedure. Pico Technology accepts no responsibility for inaccuracies. Each vehicle may be different and require unique test settings.

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Guided test: Ignition amplifier - trigger - GM (Ecotec)